Wrist fractures are common, not limited to a particular age group and are usually the result of putting your hand out for protection during a fall. As with all broken bones treatment varies depending on the type of fracture, associated collateral damage and the person on the end of the arm!
Wrist fractures often cause immediate pain, swelling, tenderness and possibly bruising. Obvious wrist deformity can be seen in some cases but not all. On occasion, the bones may pierce through the skin which can be alarming! Nerve injury may also occur leading to numbness, tingling or loss of strength in severe wrist fractures.
Distal radius fractures are the most common orthopaedic injury. Fractures to the distal part of the radius (thumb side of the wrist) are caused by a trauma so either landing on an outstretched hand in either an extended or flexed position. Ulna (little finger side of the wrist) fractures are less common but can be injured if there has been a significant trauma to the radius.
Conservative management involves the wrist and hand being treated with a cast. On some occasions the wrist and hand may need to be positioned correctly then the cast applied. The cast is normally worn for 5-6 weeks. It is really important to continue to move your fingers, thumb, elbow and shoulder whilst in the cast.
Surgical treatment is used only if there has been a significant fracture to the distal radius. This commonly involves a surgical procedure where a metal plate and screws are used to stabilise the fracture site whilst your body heals. A cast is usually applied following surgery this may be in place for up to 6 weeks.
Following either treatment, it is really important to start moving your fingers, thumb and wrist as soon as possible to regain your function. You will experience pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of grip strength. In some cases in can take a full year to feel like your wrist and hand function is back to your normal level, it is common not to regain the full movement/power that you had pre-injury.
For expert help, guidance and rehabilitation post-injury make an appointment with one of the Fay Pedler team.